Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Reason and Reviewing

There has been lots of discussion about Goodreads reviewers.  I followed a long stream of commenting between a reviewer and an author and it was sad.  It was so obvious the reviewer had an agenda to put this author down.  The author could not understand why this review was so unlike most of hers which seemed fair and constructive.  Then I saw a forum in which the reviewers chatted with each other and said stuff about certain authors.  I felt like I was eavesdropping in the ladies room at a dive bar.  I am really scared of them and try to avoid them.  I also try very hard to remember the good things that are said and not concentrate on the negative remarks, especially when the reviewer can offer no concrete reasons for the review.

I just noted this is available even if a reviewer has you blocked or will not friend you so you cannot converse with her or contact her personally.  Looking at it will help your perspective if someone gives you an out of the ordinary, perhaps mean-spirited review or you get one that sounds like they didn't read the book at all.  This is very generalized, but if you click on any reviewers name you will get to it, even if you click on it and the site says you don't have access.  By their name is a link to this.

So you can be consoled by the fact that you are not likely to get a positive review from this one.

I think the whole reviewing process is so odd.  Before the internet, when did a reviewer ever have such power over book sales?  You would read the book section in the newspaper and the blurb on the jacket in the store or the library or hear about a book from someone.  Now it reminds me of sharks.  If they get the scent of blood they all come running over to feed.  Even some very well-respected sites have gone off the deep end in what I thought was attack mode when a certain author came to her own defense regarding an Amazon Review. 

Visit the Amazon forum called Authors Behaving Badly.  It's like watching the lions tearing the Christians apart.  I stumbled on it and made a passing remark and BOOM.  I never comment there anymore.  I believe it is the New York Times that has a book reviewer who is considered iconic because  no matter who or what it is, she will tear the book and the author to shreds. .  

You have to develop your own perspective on this issue if you present your writing to the public and I find that very difficult. In a grouping of several reviews for one of my books, one person used the word evocative in her review.  Another used the word evocative twice in quite a long and very nice review.  I think strumming a familiar chord in someone's heart is the best thing you could expect from your work.  But a "family member" went  in and said that it must be a very evocative book.  Doesn't she know the public can see that and that those two nice people will never review one of my books again?  Yeow. 

Then don't get me started on the pay for reviews.  Kirkus is considered so credible   But you have to pay to get on there.  I can't even get a neighbor or a friend or a relative to even write a real review much less a fake one to boost my ratings.  Very few have even bought it.  And one of them bought ONE and then waited for another to go on freebie.  I think I may have gotten a review out of that one. The sweet little books  cost less than a nice greeting card.  I have even said, "You don't even have to read it, but the sale will help my rank."  But then what the heck.  What were my expectations?  Once again. . . fuck me.


  1. Yeah, the sharks ...

    I don't mind negative reviews at all, some of my favorites actually being negative (but also constructive), but for the reasons you pointed out, I stay away from Goodreads and the Amazon forums and a few other places. There are some circles where if you even mention you are a writer, or if it is somehow learned, hell will be rained down upon you. Some people just want to tear down, others feel overly righteous for one reason or another, but neither attitude is helpful nor adds anything to the world. I just steer clear.

  2. Thanks for stopping by. My all time favorite? "Crazy good read." Drowns the others out.

  3. If you can't say something good- say nowt, was a maxim I heard a lot growing up.(When did that happen?).
    The problem with that is Its not life. We need a little criticism in order to better ourselves so constructive criticism is good and helpful.Criticism for the sake of being smug, superior and plain nasty is not helpful so it's always wise to check previous other reviews by the same person as Virginia suggests with the rating frequency chart.If they make a point of poor reviews I suggest responding with a simple apology your book didn't please them, you're sorry they didn't understand it's premise but you can't please all of the people all of the time..... it takes the sting out when other potential readers see it by showing you're reasonable in the face of nastiness.
    Don't attack back though or you face the risk of being thought unable to face criticism at all.
    Enjoy your writing.

  4. I never thought of it from that perspective, that my reply to a reviewer would help another deal with their review. Someone on Algonquin's Table just commented on a 750 word excerpt that she couldn't enjoy it because she didn't know the people well enough. Sometimes you just have to shake your head and move on. I always joke I am going outside now to beat my head on the garage wall because it feels good when I stop.
    Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Yeah, Kirkus Reviews is bullshit. They're not honest reviews, and they're not written very well either. Pay for review schemes make me wanna gag.

    And as for the whole internet review thing, I have a bit different take on it, given the fact that I'm coming at it from the opposite side of the issue. I do agree with you on a couple points, though--for instance, how often times reviewers are more vicious than a gang of teenage girls. It's ridiculous, really. Though, authors can be just as bad with their petty, vindictive attitudes over negative reviews.

    My view is that the internet is a double-edged sword. The reason it's such a viable tool for book promotion is because it allows you to reach a wide audience without a huge monetary investment and because it invites reader engagement like no other medium before. But that same medium invites (and in some ways psuedo-legitimizes) the spouting of opinion from every Tom, Dick and Harry out there. Sucks, but it's true.

    I think what authors need to do is to look at reviews and ratings as an aggregate scoring system that show's the book's overall quality--kind of like the way that Diving or Figure Skating are judged at the Olympics. There's always going to be someone (France, I'm looking at you!) who rates everyone low because their standards are just too high. That, or they're an asshole.

    Either way, there are always going to be those outliers, and you gotta just ignore them, because if you start up the author hate machine, then you look like the asshole. And my personal opinion is that, if you can't take the criticism, you don't need to put your book out there for public consumption. I know that sentiment will probably make you mad at me, but oh well. You'll forgive me eventually.

    And anyway, you know I love you! :)


  6. I do accept the bad. The first one hurt, and I get indignant when they are unfair. Like the one's that say my characters argue so much. Constructive conversation to me. And I find wondrous good in some negative reviews, like being riveted for six hours or judging Jenny for sleeping with two guys or Lily bed-hopping, which is SO unfair to my darling Lily who can bust anyone's balls. Ahem.
    There is a review site on Goodreads that is SO vicious. I hope the Amazon buy shuts them down and no they have not reviewed me.
    On Goodreads and Amazon, you don't dare remark back. Shit storm occurs.
    I put an excerpt on Algonquin's Table "Sweet Sex in the Shower" one guy said it was realistic but tame and felt sorry for me if I thought that was racy and another guy said it was "beautiful erotica". So there ya go. And, yeah, I will forgive you almost anything. Love is such a SPECIAL feeling.

    How is it going, otherwise?


Please share your thoughts with me. I'm so glad you stopped by